35 key findings on American physicians today

Though still facing hurdles, physician outlook is more positive than before.

Healthcare reform has sent the industry into a period of transition, but physicians' outlook on their profession has become more optimistic over the past eight years.

Results from the biennial "Survey of America's Physicians" by Physicians Foundation and Merritt Hawkins indicates physicians are weary of the healthcare law but generally more positive of the future, compared to the past two surveys conducted in 2012 and 2008.

Here are 35 key findings on physician attitudes of the evolving landscape.

Barriers and concerns

  • The majority of physicians — 81 percent — report being either overextended or at full capacity, up from 75 percent in 2012.
  • Just 19 percent of physicians said they have time to see more patients.
  • Forty-four percent of physicians plan to reduce patient access to their services by any number of steps, such as reducing the number of patients they see, not accepting new patients, working part-time or moving to a non-clinical job.
  • Nearly 39 percent of physicians said they will accelerate their retirement plans given the way medicine and healthcare are changing, compared to nearly 43 percent of physicians who said they would not change their plans and nearly 19 percent who said they will defer their retirement plans.
  • Nearly three-fourths of physicians believe there is a physician shortage and that Congress should lift the cap on federal funding and increase residency slots.

Changing landscape

  • More physicians would give the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act a failing grade: 46 percent would give it a D or an F while 25 percent would give it an A or a B.
  • Physicians are increasingly becoming employed by hospitals or medical groups. In 2014, 53 percent of physicians described themselves as employees, compared to 44 percent in 2012 and 38 percent in 2008.
  • Conversely, the number of physicians who are independent practice owners has fallen from 62 percent in 2008 to 49 percent in 2012 to 35 percent in 2013.
  • Additionally, the number of solo practice physicians is down to 17 percent, from 25 percent in 2012.
  • While 26 percent of physicians participate in an accountable care organizations, only 13 percent believe ACOs will improve quality and decrease costs.
  • One half of physicians believe implementing ICD-10 will cause "severe administrative problems" in their practices, and three-fourths believe it will "unnecessarily complicate coding."

Future outlooks

  • In 2013, 44 percent of physicians indicated their morale and feelings about the medical profession were positive, up from 32 percent in 2012. Negative feelings fell from 68.2 percent in 2012 to 55.6 percent in 2013.
  • The percentage of physicians who reported being positive/optimistic about the future of the medical profession jumped to 48.9 percent in 2013 from 22.6 percent in 2012. Negative feelings fell from 77.4 percent in 2012 to 51.1 percent in 2013.
  • More physicians said they would recommend medicine as a career to young people, up to 50 percent from 42 percent in 2012 and 40 percent in 2008.
  • Approximately 71 percent of physicians said they still found medicine rewarding, while nearly 29 percent said the negatives outweigh the positives.

The survey was sent to 640,000 of the 800,000 active physicians in active patient care in the U.S. and had a 3.1 percent response rate.

More articles on physician issues:

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What's the top driver of the 6.8% physician turnover rate?
Bedside manner trumps quality care: 8 stats on Americans' physician preference

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